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Illinois Country Living

Doug Rye, licensed architect and the popular host of the "Home Remedies" radio show

Energy Solutions

The Energy Saving Sermon Continues
The King of Caulk says you can easily seal energy hog holes

With air infiltration being such a major energy problem you surely didn’t think the topic could be covered in one column, did you? As I often say in seminars, the three most important items in energy efficiency are: 1) air infiltration, 2) air infiltration, 3) air infiltration.

Remember if the cold air doesn’t get in your house this winter, it doesn’t take much fuel to heat your house.

When we perform a blower door test in a house it is absolutely amazing how many places air can and does come into a house. If a pull-down attic stairway is located inside the house, it is always an energy hog. In many houses, the heating and cooling thermometer is located near this energy hog. On a cold winter day, the poor old thermostat doesn’t know what to do. It doesn’t really know if it is in the house or the attic. Solution: Seal it, seal it, seal it. Installation of an Attic Tent ( or an Energy Guardian kit ( is a great answer to that problem.

Many older homes have what we call whole-house attic fans. Hot and cold air pours into the house through the fan’s louvers in the ceiling. Actually, there are very few days when such a fan is beneficial. Our preference is to simply remove the fan and louvers and finish the ceiling. However, a very simple solution is to install a sealed, insulated cover on the ceiling, attached to the louvers.

If you can’t remove the fan, you can build a box out of foam board and mastic tape. Simply cut the foam board to fit and seal tightly with the mastic tape. Then place it over the fan unit.

Okay now. No, we aren’t finished yet. Just think with me for a moment. Where are some other places where air can come into your home? Think of it this way. Anywhere an ant can get in, air can get in.

Here are a few major problem areas:

1. Where your wall touches your slab.

2. Cracks between the wood framing in your home’s walls.

3. Around electrical receptacles and light switches in your house, even on interior walls. (When the north wind is blowing, go feel the electrical outlets and switches on your north wall.)

4. Holes and leaks around your sink plumbing. To heck with the ants, sometimes a mouse can get through these holes.

5. Gas and fireplace flues.

6. Recessed can lights that are not IC-rated. Between 3 and 10 cubic feet per minute of air will pass through one of these lights. A typical plastic garbage bag is 3 cubic feet. So that means that three garbage bags full of air can leak out of one of those lights every minute.

7. The return air system of your heating/cooling unit. In the average house, gigantic amounts of air enter though this system.

So how are you going to stop the cold air from penetrating your home this winter? “Caulk it. Caulk it. Caulk it.” For big holes, such as those under the sink, use expandable foam. For the smaller cracks, use a clear siliconized caulk. For electrical outlets and light switches, install the insulated foam gaskets and childproof plug inserts.

Installing cellulose insulation in your attic will also help reduce air infiltration from your attic space. There are also professionals who can test your home and correct the problems. The surest way to find the leaks is through a blower door test, which reveals where all the air leaks are, even those you can’t see.

Free Doug Rye Energy Workshops

6:30 p.m. Please call to reserve seating.

October 26, 2009, Williamson County Pavilion, Marion - 800-833-2611

October 27, 2009, World Shooting Complex, Sparta - 800-606-1505

October 28, 2009, Hecker Community Center, Hecker - 800-757-7433

November 4, 2009, Holiday Inn, Mt Vernon - 800-244-5151

November 5, 2009, Shawnee Community College, Ullin - 800-762-1400

More Information:

Doug Rye, the “Doctor of Energy Efficiency-the King of Caulk and Talk” can be heard on several different Illinois radio stations. Or you can go to his Web site at, e-mail him at, or call 888-Doug-Rye or 501-653-7931. You can also sign up for a free newsletter and order his “how to” videotapes.


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Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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